Israel is continuing its invasion of the Occupied Territories.
In Ramallah, Israeli soldiers refused to let Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat leave his office for a fourth day. Middle East envoys from the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia were apparently blocked from seeing Arafat.
But some 40 international peace activists were able to breach the siege yesterday. Waving white flags, they walked right past the tanks and stunned soldiers and entered Arafat’s compound. Several reporters were with the group, and a CNN reporter broadcast the group’s action and an interview with the Palestinian leader. The Israeli government responded by declaring Ramallah “a closed military zone” and banning reporters from the entire city.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people are taking to the streets in protest of Israel’s invasion of the Occupied Territories.
In Jordan, there is a general strike today, and thousands of people are holding protests. Riot police at Jordan University fired on a thousand students with tear gas, water cannon and batons when they stormed the campus gates and tried to take their protest to the streets of the capital. More than 100 journalists gathered outside the offices of Al Arab Al Yawm newspaper, burned Israeli and US flags, and torched a picture portraying US President George W. Bush as a Nazi general. The opposition Muslim Brotherhood urged Jordanians to boycott US goods in protest at Washington’s support for the Israeli military campaign against the Palestinians. The Brotherhood also called on the Jordanian government to scrap its 1994 peace treaty with Israel. More than half of Jordan’s 5 million residents are of Palestinian origin.
In Alexandria, Egypt, 10,000 people gathered in support of the Palestinians. In Cairo, hundreds of people tried to march on the Israeli Embassy. They broke through a line of riot police before being hit with tear gas and water canon. Thousands more demonstrated in other Egyptian cities.
In Lebanon, hundreds of people held protests in Palestinian refugee camps. Some 200 Palestinian doctors and nurses held a sit-in today near the US embassy northeast of the Lebanese capital, in protest at Israeli army fire on their colleagues in the occupied territories. The protestors were doctors and nurses from all 12 Palestinian refugee camps housing. In the last month, Israeli soldiers have shot and killed five Palestinian medical workers.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is refusing all contact with the outside world, to protest Arab silence in the face of Israeli massacres of Palestinians. Yemen, along with Libya, has demanded that the Arab League convene an extraordinary summit on the Israeli army’s offensive in the Palestinian territories.
On the diplomatic front, the foreign ministers of China and Japan, and Morocco’s King Mohammed called either Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, or Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, to voice concern. France, Germany, Turkey and Arab states also urged restraint.
The Speaker of Greece’s parliament on Sunday accused Israel of committing “genocide”.
Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates all made diplomatic appeals, and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia contacted the US to voice his concerns.
At the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting in Kuala Lumpur, ministers asked the Security Council, the United States, Russia and the EU to stop Israel’s “aggression” and ensure its withdrawal from all occupied Arab land.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told the meeting that Israeli troops and Palestinian suicide bombers alike were terrorists. He said, “The holocaust did not defeat the Jews. A second holocaust with Arabs for victims will not defeat the Arabs either.”
The United Nations called for Israel to withdraw its troops from Ramallah and other West Bank cities.
Pope John Paul appealed for peace on Easter Sunday.But President Bush again condemned the latest Palestinian suicide bombings over the weekend and said Palestinian president Yasser Arafat could do more to stop such attacks.
And in a televised speech to the nation, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised an “uncompromising war to uproot these savages” and branded Arafat “an enemy of Israel.”
Sharon’s speech came after another suicide bomber killed 15 people in an Arab-owned restaurant in Haifa.
- Breaking Report From Beit Jala–Israeli Forces Shoot At International Activists And Reporters: Manola, Italian independent reporter. From New York Pacifica Station WBAI with host Bernard White, moments before Democracy Now! went on the air.
- Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, speech 03/31.
- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, comments 03/31.
- Adam Shapiro, Jewish-American activist with the International Solidarity Movement, who made it into Yasser Arafat’s compound this weekend. He is one of a group of internationals who have traveled to Palestine to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
- Dr Wail Hammoudh, doctor at the Arab Care Hospital, Ramullah, raided by Israeli soldiers yesterday.
- Kristen Schurr, activist with the International Solidarity Movement, at the Al Azzeh/Beit Jabrir refugee camp.
- Mustafa Barghouti, President of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committee.